Death Of A Shoplifter — My Front Row Seat To The Devastation of San Francisco 

If people cared before they don’t seem to now. The flowers that were left a week ago have died and Walgreens has boarded up their windows although they are open for business. I walked in and the word creepy doesn’t even begin to describe the mood inside. The store was dark and shoppers were outnumbered by a group of security guards standing by the ATM machine next to the door where Banko Brown was shot earlier this month. I was in this store in September with my daughter buying things before she returned to school. At that time it was a bustling business full of tourists and residents and there was a line to the back of the store. But, no more. 

Where do we go from here? Why would any company want to operate here? This was a problem a year ago when videos like this one of shoplifting rings went viral and it has worsened since even though the then-District Attorney Chesa Boudin has been recalled. Now the video of the killing of the shoplifter in Walgreens has been released by the new District Attorney and it’s not pretty. 

In a police interview, Anthony (the guard) said he told Brown (the shop lifter) to put the items back, but Brown was aggressive and fought to keep the items. He said he told Brown he would let him go if he calmed down, and that Brown kept saying he was going to stab him. A knife was not found on Brown.

Anthony said he let Brown go, but he drew his gun and kept it pointed at the ground just in case Brown attacked. He said he shot when Brown advanced, not realizing Brown would just spit at him. — NBC News

I’m not sure who to show more compassion toward for because it is just a tragedy all around and contributes to the dark mood and chaos around the city. I work from home and by late afternoon I need a change of scenery and today was no exception. I told myself I needed to go to the grocery store, but I really didn’t. I had a few choices to buy the few things I didn’t really need, but I chose to exit my building, head down 5th Street, and cut through the Westfield Mall where Nordstroms sits on the fourth floor getting ready to close its doors. I then exited on Market Street and passed Walgreens then doubled back to take the photo above and stepped inside. Tragic was the general mood inside and I immediately left. I took a right toward 4th Street passing many marginalized people. It never fails to amaze me that these people are mixed in with families that are obviously tourists heading toward the shopping center and Union Square or workers heading to the BART station to go home. There are also preachers with microphones calling people to God. There is a gentleman on the corner every day grilling hot dogs wrapped in bacon and selling containers of watermelon. It is truly a surreal scene.

When I worked at Wells Fargo on Market Street I would often walk to Nordstroms then take the escalator down to the Powel Street Station to head home. It was a different city then. 

Today I stopped and stood there because there was a police car and an ambulance helping two young girls and one of them was crying. I don’t know why she was crying or what had happened, but they could not have been more than 17 years old. 

In January police in North Carolina arrested a man they caught on a security video shoving an elderly Home Depot employee out of the way during a theft. The man later died from his injuries. So, San Francisco is not alone in dealing with this problem, but we are alone in the fact that it is tearing our city apart socially and destroying our retail and tourism industry as businesses and travelers flee at record numbers. 

For the past two years, there has been a frenzied, unproductive public shouting match around drug dealing and homelessness in the city. And the idea has taken root that retail theft gravely threatens public safety when, in reality, it’s barely threatening Walgreens’ bottom line. — SF Chronical 

I was surprised to read this as it obviously affects all of us when shoplifters get shot in the stores we frequent. If we do not get in the line of fire that keeps the crime rates down, but it doesn’t help our mental health which apparently is not considered by the numbers. It also doesn’t sit well with customers when some can take whatever they want and leave while the rest of us patiently stand in line. All of this is terrifying for both the employees and the shoppers. I know because I was one of those employees. This is not how business works where some people are allowed to do whatever they want and fill up their bags and leave while others pay. One day while I was working at Club Monico we had a homeless man use our dressing room as a toilet and I watched my manager clean it up. This is not so much the death of a beautiful city as the death of civilized society.

The Chronicle went on to say, 

Sure, retail theft rings exist in San Francisco, but so does hunger caused by income inequality. Crimes of opportunity exist in every big city, reflected by the sale of stolen merchandise on the street. — SF Chronical 

I’m sure there are some hungry families with children living among us, but many of these thieves are not hungry in the traditional sense. There are many services open to feed the homeless in our very generous and tolerant city. These shoplifters are not stealing food. They are stealing things like power washers. Stealing food is one thing participating in crime rings is something else. We can’t keep blaming income inequality when we clearly have a rampant drug culture and crime problem. 

The city has also invested heavily in solving our homelessness problem — the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has a budget of more than $600 million per year with a total budget for serving the homeless of $1.1 billion in the fiscal year 2021–22. To give you an idea San Francisco spends approximately $17,464 educating a high school senior per year compared with the $70,000 spent per homeless person. Investing in our youth is noble while investing in programs that are costly and do not work should be reconsidered. You can calculate the return on investment. 

After I left Walgreens I walked into Trader Joe’s on 4th Street. It was busy, but relatively calm compared to what came afterward. It was then that things took a turn for the worse. 

In one block there were three police cars and an ambulance. This is the block where the Marriot Hotel serves thousands of business visitors per day generating the revenue our city so desperately needs. At first, I thought it was one incident, but there were two. One police car was dealing with a young woman and the other was helping a man lying face down in the ally next to the hardware store. In less than a half hour I saw four police cars in one block dealing with three incidents. Maybe we have more police officers now that London Breed has brought more law enforcement to San Francisco. I don’t know, but I was happy to see four police officers on the lower deck of the Powel Street BART station when I was traveling to the airport for Mom’s Weekend last week.

I used to be really political when I was young, but then I gave that up for banking and tech, but this San Francisco needs leadership and it is sorely lacking. Today I had one of those moments when I realized no one is coming. There is no one to rescue this great city. No one standing in the wings ready to step up. No one. 

We will see what happens next…

Love and blessings to all.

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